Proposals for “game-changing” reforms to hospital food have been presented to government today, 26th October 2020.
The Hospital Food Review, advised by Prue Leith CBE, has revealed large inconsistencies in food quality and services across the NHS. The report lands at a key moment in time. Covid-19 has highlighted the importance on our health as a nation, and patient care has never been more important. The report urges government to establish legal standards for hospital food quality and sustainability. Currently, there are no hospital food standards set in UK legislation.
How Food for Life Served Here is leading the way
As part of its recommendations, the report suggests that NHS trusts consider acquiring a suitable accreditation such as the Food for Life Served Here (FFLSH) certification scheme – which ensures 13 million NHS meals are served every year to robust food quality and sustainability standards.
The report states that: ‘Independent accreditation is a robust way to demonstrate that trusts are meeting strong sustainability criteria and complying with the relevant mandatory standards. Trusts with a Soil Association ‘Food for Life Served Here’ award, for example, can demonstrate their commitment to a wide range of product assurance schemes, […] This will generally guarantee very good or excellent performance by the hospital catering team against Defra’s balanced scorecard’
The Food for Life Served Here standards already demonstrate strong evidence in their framework in support of the recommendations issued by the report.
Investment in fresh
One of the key recommendations calls for greater powers for the Care Quality Commission (CQC) to inspect trusts to ensure standards are being met, as well as investment for hospital kitchens and catering facilities to enable trusts to prepare more fresh food on site.
FFLSH certifies caterers for providing meals cooked from scratch. We welcome this recommendation from the Hospital Food Report to enable more hospital kitchens to prepare fresh, nutritious meals.
Local and sustainable
Championing local farmers is also listed as a key recommendation from the report.
FFLSH encourages the use of local produce, to support the local economy and protect the environment - a consideration that is becoming more widely recognised as crucial to food sustainability, particularly since the outbreak of Covid-19.
The recommendations also suggest NHS trusts agree a common method of recording and monitoring food waste – a key element at the heart of the FFLSH Green Kitchen Standard.
The Green Kitchen Standard framework recognises caterers that are making positive steps to sustainably manage their energy, water and waste.
FFLSH in Hospitals – in action
Tim Radcliffe, Deputy Patient Services Manager, looks after five sites within the East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust, which is Bronze FFLSH accredited.
“Ensuring all our staff understood the importance of using the correct ingredients took time – although it was time well spent, as we now have a fantastic resource in the recipe book we developed, and staff are fully on board, and taking ownership and pride in the food they are preparing and serving.
It was also a tool to be able to promote all the work we are doing around sourcing British and more sustainable produce – for example: Red Tractor meat, free range eggs and sustainable fish.
We can promote the fact that our pies are locally made and are having a positive impact on a local business, which is great in terms of adding social value to what we do.”
Rob Percival, Head of Food Policy at the Soil Association said; “This review could be game-changing in turning the tide on poor-quality food being served across English hospitals, but only if the recommendations are implemented in full. It’s time food standards were regulated with monitoring and inspections to ensure good practice. It would be brilliant to see hospital trusts using their buying power to support British farmers and enable environmentally sustainable food production.”
Other key highlights from the report include:
- Catering staff support: Develop a national training certificated course for hospital caterers, as part of a public sector training qualification, and provide an NHS catering apprenticeship scheme.
- Capital investment in kitchens: Funding should be provided to upgrade existing hospital kitchens and provide ward and staff kitchens to enable a 24/7 service for everyone. All new health care builds should prioritise providing health-enhancing, fresh and sustainable food to patients, staff and visitors, while maximising local job opportunities by ensuring 21st-century catering facilities
- Quality over cost: Ensure the use of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ (Defra) ‘A plan for public procurement: food and catering: the balanced scorecard’ and the Public Services (Social Value) Act (2012), and that a 40% cost/60% quality split is mandated across the NHS for the procurement of food and all catering services.
- Nutrition steering groups should be implemented across the board with representation from nursing, dietetics, catering, speech and language therapists, sustainability experts, and patients.
Watch our podcast interview with Phil Shelley, Chair of the Hospital Food Review